Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Jun 5, 2005 6:58am

RSS reuse

An interesting conversation has been brewing over at Read Write Web. It starts with a note about SuperFeedSystem and its marketing language:

What if you could have constant new content on your site ... without having to write a word of it? Now you can with the wonderful power of FEEDS. ... Use other people's information to have constant, new, expert articles auto-added to your sites.

There's an element of personal interest for me here, because I'm a co-writer of ReBlog, and our language says:

A reBlog facilitates the process of filtering and republishing relevant content from many RSS feeds. reBloggers subscribe to their favorite feeds, preview the content, and select their favorite posts. These posts are automatically published through their favorite blogging software. ... reBlogs are useful to individuals who want to maintain a weblog but prefer curating content to writing original posts.

Wow, sounds pretty similar.

I believe we avoid the thornier redistribution issues aired on Richard's site by focusing on the personal nature of reblogging, and taking care to build a clear chain of attribution into the reblogged news items. However, the technology is effectively the same between the two projects: SuperFeedSystem could probably be used to publish an Unmediated or Eyebeam ReBlog, while our software could be used to co-opt other people's written works into a search engine juicer.

Legally, the issues here are also identical. A few commenters argue that the second S in RSS grants implicit permission to re-use, but I don't believe this to be the case. Copyright law is clear that the owner of a work has the right to determine where and how it is reproduced. I don't think that the publication format is an implied license. I'm actually surprised that this conversation is even taking place - the stated goal of groups like the Creative Commons or the FSF is to provide for ways to unambiguously license material without requiring the old-style byzantine permissions runaround. It feels as though most of these questions have been asked and answered countless times, and that in 2005 it's enough to slap a CC badge on the work and be done with it. Richard's site lacks one, therefore he reserves all rights except fair use (excerpts, attributed quotes).

Still, I can see why there's a point near the end of the comment stream where the spittle flies a bit; ultimately it comes down to user's intent with a program like SuperFeedSystem or reBlog. If attribution is given in good faith and content is sampled judiciously, there rarely seems to be a problem.

A commenter near the bottom says:

I've never used any of Rich's articles, but now I definitely know that I won't. I would think that most people would get the hint from this conversation. Please keep life simple for newbies like me. RSS has been fun so far without the legal mumbo jumbo.

The whole point of a Creative Commons license is to recognize that new technologies allow for wholesale duplication, recontextualization and redistribution, and to formalize the licensing process with a simple pattern.


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